Hackers and Depression: Inform Yourselves About CBT

My wife is a clinical psychologist. Over the past week we’ve had long discussions about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a certain type of therapy that is focused on using evidence-based methods (read: there have been studies showing effectiveness), with a particular emphasis on rational reasoning and pragmatic ways to tackle issues like depression and anxiety. The overlap with programming in terms of the way of thinking is astounding.

As a community, we rarely talk about mental illness. It takes high profile cases like Aaron Swartz’s suicide to get us to even bring up the subject, but more than likely we’ll revert back to our isolation and pretend like depression isn’t a serious issue in the tech world. We need to face depression, not sweep it under the rug.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with depression, please take a look at CBT. This article is a joint effort between a programmer (me) and a psychologist (my wife). I bet it’s the first article about therapy you’ve seen that uses code snippets to illustrate points.

CBT is for Hackers:

The tragedy to me is this: one of the most effective and scientifically-backed treatments for depression appears to be a stunning fit for hackers, and yet few people know about it. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and it has some of its origins in computer science.

Born out of the cognitive revolution of the 1950s, a key idea within cognitive psychology is that by studying successful functions in computer science, it becomes possible to make testable inferences about human psychological processes. Cognitive behavioral therapists mirror hackers in how they see the world and approach problems. They share the same core values: an emphasis on problem solving as efficiently and effectively as possible, using logic to debug a system, gathering data to test out what works and what doesn’t, and implementing transparent methods that others can understand and replicate as opposed to simply putting your faith in a “magic black box”. CBT and hackers are long lost kindred spirits, yearning to be reunited.

Read the full CBT is for Hackers article.


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